According to the ancient tradition of the Church of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord was born in the town of Bethlehem of Southern Israel (Judea) and raised in the town of Nazareth of Northern Israel (Galilee). And his being born in Bethlehem has important significance for our Christian faith and spirituality.
The name of Bethlehem literally means “house of bread.” It is a name that signifies the entire purpose and meaning of the life, teachings, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ Jesus our Lord. He is the child of the “house of bread.” In other words, he is the Son of the House of the Bread of Life. He is the Living Bread sent to us from God to feed and nourish the whole world with his love, light and life.
Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty… Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. But here is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” – (The Holy Bible, John 6: 35, 47-51)
Christ our Lord is the True Bread of Heaven for the salvation of the world. By God’s grace revealed in Jesus, God has given to all of us God’s Love, God’s Light and God’s Life. Thanks be to God!
As we eat/partake of Christ our Living Bread, we experience, here and now, the great gifts of God’s Love Eternal, Light Perpetual and Life Everlasting. Through daily prayer (as we drive along in the car for instance) we can partake of the Bread of Life, here and now, as we bear our souls to God, acknowledge sins and seek God’s guidance. We can also partake of the Bread of Life (here and now) as we join with others in regular Bible study, in weekly worship and fellowship, and in ongoing charitable service.
The Bread of Life is always available to us through these various means, so that we might walk in the power of the Spirit and in newness of life. However, this Living Bread of Heaven is not merely for our benefit, but for the benefit of others. In fact, within our primary worship resource for our Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, a hymnal called the “ELW,” we have wonderful prayers that we pray in worship regarding our mission to share the Bread of Christ with everyone everywhere.
In the ELW hymnal we often pray one of the following prayers after giving our offerings and before receiving Holy Communion:
Nourish us with these gifts, that we might be for the world signs of your gracious presence in Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Use us, and what we have gathered, in feeding the world with your love, through the one who gave himself for us, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
In addition, after receiving Holy communion, we often pray one of the following prayers:
O God, we give you thanks that you have set before us this feast, the body and blood of your Son. By your Spirit strengthen us to serve all in need and to give ourselves away as bread for the hungry, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
God of abundance, with this bread of life and cup of salvation you have united us with Christ, making us one with all your people. Now send us forth in the power of your Spirit, that we may proclaim your redeeming love to the world and continue forever in the risen life of Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.
Yes, these are wonderful prayers that speak to our mission and ministry to share the Bread of Christ with all people. However, it is easy to sometimes gloss over the meaning of these prayers when we pray them at worship. So, I invite you to reread these important prayers again, and really contemplate and meditate on them, because these prayers encapsulate what our Christian faith and life are all about.
As we approach Christmastime, when we celebrate the birth of Christ Jesus, the Living Bread of Heaven, may we always partake of this Bread of Life through the various means I have listed. And may we ponder these several prayers of our weekly worship, and put them into practice through our kindhearted words and gentle deeds, all for the sake of the world God loves.
Together in Christ’s Mission, Pastor Tim